Blending ancestral kitchen traditions and new scientific research will allow fermentation to change our diet — and our planet.
In a TEDx Talk, Mara King, co-founder of fermented food store Ozukè, shares why she is proudly releasing trillions of good bacteria into the population. Her food philosophy rubs against everything the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments practice. While government agencies enforce strict sanitation standards in the name of protecting American’s food, King preaches that it’s wiping out good bacteria and dumping more toxins into the environment.
When King and co-founder Willow King (no relation) opened their Colorado-based food business, a food scientist from the Denver office of the Health & Human Services Department performed a safety inspection. The food expert was confused by Ozukè’s live, fermented pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi. King: “He said ‘Your product is so weird. We follow all these FDA guidelines in food manufacturing in order to diminish bacteria and here you are making it on purpose.’”
“The food we make is actually super, super, super safe, unlike mots processed packaged fresh foods,” King says. “The reason this food is so safe is not because I’m better at this antimicrobial Macarena than anybody else. It’s because the bacteria are doing the work of making the fermented foods pretty much bomb proof.”
Though numerous cultures have been fermenting for generations (“It’s how humans have been eating raw, crunchy vegetables all through hard winters.”), King notes it’s only in the last 10 years that scientists have been able to map the complex fermentation process. By letting bacteria thrive in its own ecosystem, it “creates a food that’s no longer harmful to humans” and makes a more nutritious product.
“Nature does not operate in a vacuum and neither should we,” King says. “We need to understand the complexity of the world in which we live, then we can start to come up with solutions that do honor our heritage.”
King, who great up in Hong Kong, says older Chinese women store an impressive knowledge of food and medicine. Merging ancient tradition with new science is what will create the living solutions needed to continue living on our planet.
“In fermentation, we have a little trick that we use which is called using a started culture or a mother. I believe that our starter culture…is our human cultural history,” King says. “Once we start tapping this information…we’ll start to come up with amazing solutions, solutions that grow, solutions that rot, solutions that breath.”
Today Ozuke (which means “the best pickled things” in Japanese) still makes pickled veggies, but also teaches fermentation workshops. For more information, visit their webpage.
Ever thrown out a jar of kimchi because of those pesky white mold bubbles? Fear not – it’s not mold, it’s yeast! Researchers say just skim it off, rinse the veggie, heat it and it’s totally safe to eat. The World Institute of Kimchi (WiKim) released a study on the hygenic safety of the yeast strains that form on kimchi, a report which was published in the Journal of Microbiology. WiKim General Director Dr. Jaeho Ha said the study is significant because “it is a step forward toward the alleviation of the anxiety for hygienic safety of kimchi.”
Read more (Phys.org)
Fermentation is dominating 2019 food prediction lists. The New York Times says fermented foods and fermented drinks will rule in 2019. The year’s flavor profile will be “Sour and funky, with shades of heat,” melding fermented ingredients with millennial taste buds. Probiotics and prebiotics will continue to reign as consumers focus on gut health. “As the obsession with digestive health dovetails with the fascination for fermenting, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickled things will work their way into new territory. Smoothies with kefir will be popular, and kombucha will show up in unexpected places like salad dressings,” the article continues. What will you be eating in 2019?
Read more (New York Times)
America could be facing a pickle shortage. Since the mid-2000s, a mildew has been destroying cucumber crops. Fewer farmers are growing cucumbers now because of the high amount of failed harvests. USDA records show pickling cucumber acreage has declined 25 percent between 2004 and 2015. Lina Quesada-Ocampo, vegetable pathologist at North Carolina State University told NPR: “This is the number one threat to the pickle industry.” Thankfully, vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek, a professor at Cornell University, is developing a cucumber variety resistant to mildew.
Read more (NPR)
Fermented foods are the No. 1 superfood of 2018, according to a poll of U.S. dietitians. “The rising popularity of fermented foods demonstrates how consumers have expanded their definition of wellness to include improved gut health, which is a benefit of consuming fermented foods,” according to Food Business News. The article highlighted numerous chefs experimenting with fermented ingredients, and fermented food producers who share the health benefits of eating fermented products. These food industry experts point out that consumers today are looking for a twist on classic dishes, and fermented foods add bold flavors. Like pairing pickled veggies with tacos, adding fermented Brussels sprouts on a tapas plate and brining French fries in a salt and cabbage solution.
Read more (Food Business News) (Photo: Cultured Love)
Business advice from the No. 2 pickle brand in the nation: hire the right high-level people, use creative marketing and sell a fresh product rather than one packed with preservatives. Grillo’s Pickles owner Travis Grillo talked with Yahoo Finance about growing his business from humble beginnings as a pickle street cart in Boston to a brand now sold in Whole Foods and Target, netting $25 million in sales a year. Travis said some of the most well-known pickle brands are made with chemicals for a long shelf life. But Grillo’s is made fresh with an all-natural, fourth-generation family recipe.
Read more (Yahoo Finance) (Photo: Grillo’s Pickles)
It’s National Pickle Day — Forbes explains why pickles are not a fading trend, but a growing food culture with staying power. The pickle market is growing, reaching a value of $12.74 billion by 2020 (half of that – $6.70 billion – is just in the U.S.). Pickles curb dehydration, are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C and E and the fermented vinegar in the juice is good for your gut. Today, pickle concoctions can be found on most aisles of a grocery store, from sports drinks to popcorn to popsicles.
Read more (Forbes)
Food scientists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst found vegetables are the main source of fermentation-related microbes. Many in the fermentation field commonly think food handlers, food prep surfaces, production environment or other environmental sources effect the bacteria in fermented vegetables. Testing was done as Mass.-based Real Pickles, and the company founder said he was fascinated to learn how fresh, organic vegetables play a key part in a diverse microbial environment for fermentation.
Home fermenters are still hitting legislative roadblocks. A Texas law allows farmers and home cooks to sell their pickled goods without becoming licensed food manufacturers — as long as that pickled product is cucumber. The 2011 law oddly doesn’t permit any other pickled vegetable. A retired couple is suing the state over the restrictive law, arguing it hurt the financial viability of their farm which the couple was forced to close because they couldn’t sell their pickled beets.
Read More (The Texas Tribune)